The Buzz: If Suicide Squad is Bad Why Do People Care So Much
On this week’s The Buzz we look at the divide between audiences and Suicide Squad. Does the movie deserve all the hate that it has been receiving and why are audiences so passionate about it? Then we offer up our own take on the massive hit in the superhero genre. Next, we eagerly look forward to the new Christopher Nolan movie. Finally, in our In the Loop section, find out what SNL favorites are not returning and a changes in streaming services.
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Film: Suicide Squad: Was there any doubt that the newest DC comic-book film Suicide Squad wasn’t going to be a hit? Last weekend it broke August’s opening weekend box office numbers by raking in over $133 million domestically. Not even terrible reviews from critics could deter any audience from seeing it. Yet, people were angry that film critics hated the film so much to the point that some people have started petitions to shut down the critic’s aggregate site, Rotten Tomatoes, and others have been bombarding the comment sections of film reviews accusing some writers of being Marvel shills who would have hated anything that DC would have released.
But, why all this passion for a movie that on all counts are not very good?
Watching the reaction to Suicide Squad and, I guess, the reaction to the reaction, reminded me of this year’s political campaign. This film, like, depending on where you fall on the ideological spectrum, is like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. After a long season of mediocre blockbusters and even longer series of releases of superhero movies that fit inside a homogenous model, Suicide Squad was a promise of change. That was proven earlier this year with Deadpool, an R-rated superhero comedy, that was relentlessly violent as it was caustically foul-mouthed. So, when the first trailers of Suicide Squad set to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released last year, the chaotic action and the cynicism of its characters felt like something new is on the horizon.
When movie critics did not give their seal of approval, for many this is like delegates refusing to vote for their candidate. We as people need two things in a narrative we tell ourselves. We want to be the underdog, overcoming a bigger conglomerate of obstacles, and we wanted to be accepted by a voice of authority. Film critics happens to fall in that sweet spot. What better way to proudly celebrate a movie as transgressive and great than with the backing of film critics? “Don’t take my word for it. It is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.” But, when the film critics do not match your opinion then the critics is irrelevant, not in touch with a general audience or part of a vast conspiracy to keep DC films down so that the Marvel franchise can keep making billions of dollars.
At the end of the day, Suicide Squad is going to make a lot of money and have a lot of fans. But, for those who argue with critics about the film, don’t you want to hold these films to higher standards? Stories have trickled in about the production Suicide Squad, including excessive reshoots when Warner Brothers, the production company, began to see the criticisms of grimness roll in for Batman v. Superman. This could be an answer to the misplaced humor, the grating pop music and the GRAPHICS, GRAPHICS, GRAPHICS, that is used throughout the film. With no story in tow and shoddy character development, the only way to voice displeasure is to not see the movie. That is the story of Fantastic Four and Green Lantern, both high budget superhero properties with lots of interference from their respective studios and a huge decrease in box office numbers after a strong opening weekend. In fact Suicide Squad dropped 40% from their Friday totals to their Saturday totals when the normal rate is 30%. Experts have stated that does not bode well for the movie’s “playability.”
Sure, Suicide Squad will end up being one of the highest grossing movies of the year, but instead of being a billion-dollar film, the insecurities of the executives working on the movie will ultimately make it $500 million film. Sure, that is no small payday, but film culture and comic-book fans deserve better.
Ultimately, Suicide Squad is a hamstrung commercial product made by a studio that does not know how to make a superhero movie that works which is aggravating when this movie is a proven formula if handled with any finesse. David Ayer’s film is a riff on The Dirty Dozen, a group of jailed sentence super-villains who are grouped together to complete an impossible mission. But, rather than getting a film that is fun and lively, what we get is a film that panders in the worst way.
The conventional rule of wisdom of any form of storytelling is showing not telling. Here is a film that leaves everything on their sleeve. For the entire first act of film, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a sociopathic government agent, sits at a restaurant table to unleash her plans for Task Force X made up of the villains. She then proceeds to introduce each villain one by one which leads the film to flashback after flashback backed up by the most inanely obvious movie songs from “Sympathy of the Devil” (a song that should be banned by all filmmakers at this point) and Eminem’s “Without Me.”
There is Deadshot (Will Smith), a deadly assassin who is said to be a sociopathic serial killer but has a heart of gold for his daughter. Then there is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a sociopathic killer who loves The Joker but who also turns out to have a heart of gold. There are other people who round up the group, Captain Boomerang who throws a boomerang (Jai Courtney), but the film posits those two as the most important characters by actually giving them flashbacks while others are left in the dark. One member randomly shows up, his power just as ridiculous as Captain Boomerang, just to be killed moments later. Others would get flashbacks later on in the film, only when they are convenient for some shoe-horned in moment of pathos. The film even flashes back to itself when it reshows how the villain became the villain right before the final battle despite the fact that we saw it an hour ago.
This is a film with so little confidence in itself and the audience that it is appealing to that it had to actually have to tattoo “Damaged” onto the Joker’s forehead as if the audience could not tell by Jared Leto looking like a combination of a Hot Topic teenager and Al Capone. The Joker proves to just be an extended cameo in the film, the plot would not be affected if he had been excised from it entirely, but as further proof of the lack of faith Warner Brothers had for the film, the advertising would lead you to believe he was a major character. Thankfully he was not as Leto’s interpretation, filled with stories in the press about his method acting craziness, was especially grating, like a high school student playing crazy onstage.
Ayer’s filmmaking, which has been decent in films like End of Watch, is shrouded in darkness and hampered by bad editing. Action scenes between the Suicide Squad and Power Rangers-like putty patrol have little stakes to them as the film makes the setting around them look like cheap sets and CGI. Once again, this film reminds all of cinema that there is no reason to ever have a CGI villain with some derivative, not fully clear plot to destroy the world.
Robbie is particularly good as Harley Quinn, although this particular interpretation of the character is problematic. She brings strength and vulnerability despite the film’s script and direction sexualizes and romanticizes her abusive relationship. Quinn is literally introduced through Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” yet her relationship with the Joker is a one-sided affair of abuse.
Are these criticisms I have nitpicking? Probably. But, that doesn’t excuse the fact that I left this film confused as what happen. The first trailer promised spectacle and something different. But, the results are of a studio with property they want to milk as much out as possible with no regards to quality. This is commercial filmmaking at its worst; pandering to audiences based on what does well in the numbers. I guess we should just get hyped for Wonder Woman. Okay Marvel, I gave this a bad review, now where is my check?
Coming Soon: Dunkirk: Now from one disappointing Warner Brothers movie to a Warner Brother movie that could potentially be great. Christopher Nolan is a rare auteur filmmaker whose grand commercial success has allowed him the ability to make whatever film he wants. With a sandbox to play in, Nolan’s next feature will be an epic film about the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II. This is a teaser trailer that does exactly that making you wish that July 21st already. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, James D’Arcy and Nolan muse, Cillian Murphy.
In the Loop: In surprising news, the long running NBC sketch show, Saturday Night Live announced that Jay Pharoah, Jon Rudnitsky and Taran Killam are not returning to the show. Pharoah and Killam were staples on the show after the last crop of stars like Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader left. Pharoah was known for his impressions such as Barack Obama and Denzel Washington. Killam was one of those repertory players on the show who was able to fill in all the gaps while also being the comedic lead on the sketch. While these departures come as a shock, SNL has proven to be an engine that continues to chug along and it will be exciting to see what new comedic greats will be able to fill those shoes.
American Crime Story was a huge hit with The People vs. O.J. garnering numerous Emmy nominations. Now, executive producer Brad Simpson has announced that next season of the show will tackle how the American government tackled the fallout of Hurricane Katrina. According to Simpson, most of the political names will be fictionalized but the whole story is ripe for dramatic interpretation. There have been no announcements as to who is starring thus far.
Disney has embraced the cord cutting market as it announced that it will be launching ESPN as an Over-the-top streaming service in the vein of HBOGo and Netflix. This comes after Disney bought 33% stake of the streaming company BAMtech which was formed by Major League Baseball. This new streaming service will show multiple sports and live games. A release date has yet to be announced.
In other streaming service news, Hulu has announced that it will no longer be providing free content on its site and will be subscription based only. They will begin to fade out the no cost option for the rest of the year, completing the transition in 2017.